Future of telemedicine: How COVID-19 is changing how we see the doctor

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WASHINGTON (GRAY DC) -- For many patients - this is the first time they've ever seen their doctor on the computer.

Future of Telemedicine: How COVID-19 is changing how we see the doctor (Source: Gray DC)

"Sometimes the easiest change to make is the one you have to make," said Dr. Ellen O'Brien. "We couldn't really be contemplative about it, we just had to launch in and do it."

Dr. O'Brien works for Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C. In February, providers at Children's saw 100 patients by telemedicine. In April, that number jumped to 8,000.

"We are really doing our best to try to limit the exposures for kids, so everybody can be as safe as possible," said O'Brien. "I had one where the kids were jumping on the bed and the parents were trying to talk to me, or the baby is crying. Not unlike a regular visit."

Dr. O'brien is screening sick patients and seeing children for their regular checkups online.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending this for most children over the age of 2 until it's safe to visit the doctor in person again.

"It's been an explosion of use," said Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association.

She says the pandemic is making telemedicine more accessible.

Some private insurance companies are waiving out of pocket fees for telemedicine visits, and many federal and state insurance programs are now paying for the virtual visits.

Mond Johnson is lobbying for these changes to become permanent.

"One thing that will be a constant in this conversation going forward is the importance and the need of telehealth for people to get care where and when they need it," said Mond Johnson.

So now, it's becoming easier for our doctors to check in on us, no matter what is going on in the world outside.

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